Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is out now on 3DS in North America and Europe. If you've never experienced this PlayStation RPG classic, you're in for quite an adventure — the game clocks in at around 100 hours just for completing the main story! More importantly, we believe it's a quest worthy of your time.
With such a grand quest ahead it's a good idea to go in prepared. When playing through the early parts of the game we picked up several important pointers along the ride. Here are eight pieces of advice you should know when starting out.
Don't Get Discouraged Early On
Dragon Quest VII is not a fast-moving game. It's hard to exaggerate how slowly this game starts out — of course you control a young hero in his hometown who soon stumbles upon a great secret and goes on adventures to save the world, but it doesn't happen right away.
You won't hit your first battle encounter until almost two hours into the game. Before that, the game contains a lot of backtracking — there are three main areas you're required to traipse between several times before you can access new areas at all.
However, even once you're battling monsters and discovering new areas, the game still moves at a glacial pace. There are entire facets of the game, like the Vocation system, that you won't see until about 20 hours in. If you're not patient, you probably won't appreciate this game. Be prepared for this in the early stages of the adventure.
Take Time to Explore
Even though the game is fairly linear in its early stages, it's still worth going off the beaten path when you can to discover hidden secrets and goodies. Especially in the first hours, you'll want to smash every barrel and jar in sight and open closets. They often contain healing herbs, coins, and sometimes even armour to equip.
There aren't a ton of treasure chests in the first stages, but you will come across some if you explore. Do keep a look out for them, as they give you the chance to acquire powerful armour and weapons without paying for them.
Finally, keep an eye out for the mini medals. You'll meet someone later on who will reward you for collecting them.
Know Button Shortcuts and Important Controls
While you can access most controls through the menu, there are a few that are available with just one button press that are useful.
- The B Button lets you talk to your party members, which can provide clues on how to proceed. It also gives you dialogue relevant to what's going on, which is fun for those who like to see every bit of text.
- When in a town, the Y Button shows the stock of the nearby shop. This lets you quickly see if you have enough coins to afford a coveted item or remember which shop contained that new sword you want to buy, without having to walk all the way into the store.
- It's quite important to use the L and R Buttons to rotate the camera. You can do this on most screens of the game, and it's key for finding hidden secrets that you might miss otherwise. There are some stairways and treasure chests that are out of sight unless you change your point of view.
Understand the Battle System
Once you get into battles, you'll be fighting a lot of them. Thankfully, this version of the game starts battles when you bump into enemies on the overworld instead of forcing random encounters on you.
In the Misc. section of the game's menu, you can select the Line-Up option to choose which order the members of your party stand in. Besides affecting how they look on the overworld, members near the front are also more likely to be attacked, so it's a smart idea to keep those with high Defense and HP stats in the front.
Also in this menu you can adjust the Tactics of your party members, which is important for keeping battles running smoothly. There are several options to choose from, and you can set them for all party members or choose unique behaviour for each one.
- Show No Mercy brings your allies into a fit of rage, so they attempt to defeat enemies as quickly as possible using any means necessary.
- Fight Wisely is balanced; characters won't waste magic power or be brash if it's not smart to do so.
- Watch My Back prioritizes your character, making sure that the Hero is well taken care of.
- Don't Use Magic is useful to conserve MP. You might want to use this to withhold magic points for healing before a boss, or for using Evac to escape a dungeon.
- Focus on Healing ensures nobody gets close to death by topping off those who are taking damage in battle.
- Follow Orders is the default option and lets you control each party member in battle just as you control your own hero.
These are situational — sometimes you want complete control over your party members, while other times you can automate a battle by letting them decide. Use these tactics as much as necessary to keep your battle strategy on top.
Keep an Eye Out for Fragments
Fragments are extremely important items in this game. As you collect them you'll be able to complete pillars inside a sacred temple, which opens up access to new islands. Because of how much backtracking is present in the early hours of the game, you'll want to make sure you aren't missing any fragments when you're near them.
The formula early on has you traveling to an island in the past to solve some kind of problem for the inhabitants, collecting a few fragments in the process. Then, once the day is saved for this island, it appears in the present, where you have to visit it again to collect more fragments in order to open up the next area.
You'll eventually get an item that flashes on your bottom screen when a fragment is near — pay attention to this, because you don't want to miss one and have to come back later.
There's an option in the menu under Info that will alert you to fragments you missed in accessible areas. You can also find a list of collected fragments, so once you get deeper into the adventure, you can compare your collection to a guide if you so choose.
Know Your Characters' Attributes
Any RPG relies on statistics to decide how powerful characters are and how they respond to certain attacks, and DQ VII is no different. In the beginning of the adventure you'll acquire equipment and find items that boost various stats, but it might not be immediately obvious what these attributes all do.
Here's a quick guide to the various stats, which you can view for your characters under Attributes in the menu:
- Strength is a character's raw attack power.
- Agility represents how quick your character is. Having a high Agility stat lets you attack first and dodge enemy attacks more often.
- Resilience is raw defense power.
- Wisdom is discussed as "intelligence", but actually controls the character's ability to dodge spell attacks.
- Style is someone's charisma, and is used in style ranking contests. This stat doesn't affect your performance in battle. Some armor might be strong but not look fancy, thus giving it a low Style stat.
- Attack is Strength with that character's equipped weapon's stats included.
- Defense is a character's Resilience with their equipped armor included.
Of course, stats will improve as you battle and level up. You can also find seeds that can be eaten by any party member to permanently boost certain stats.
Practice Good Item Management
Between equipment, key items and healing medicine, you'll pick up a lot of stuff early on. Each character can only hold a certain amount of items, but you also have a Bag that can hold an unlimited number of goodies. Thus, you should prioritize item usage by making sure each party member holds strong equipment and healing items that can be used in battle, while leaving key items for the Bag.
Additionally, if a character holds two of an item (like a Medicinal Herb), it will count as two slots in their inventory. The Bag will keep track of how many of each item you have without listing every single one, so you can toss everything extra in there. You can use the Organize Items and Organize Bag entries in the Misc. menu if your stuff is getting a bit unruly.
Something else that's important to note is that party members temporarily come and go somewhat often in the adventure. When they do this, everything they had that wasn't an equipped item will go to your Bag, but anything they had equipped will stay with them. Be careful not to give anything too important or powerful to a character other than the hero.
Gold coins are another key part of item management. If your entire party is ever wiped out, you'll drop half of your money, which is a pretty huge blow considering money can be hard to come by. You can combat this in two ways.
First, you can find banks across the land that accept deposits or withdrawals of 1,000 coin increments. Once you start carrying this much cash, use banks to deposit anything extra to ensure that it's kept safe should you bite the dust.
Second, you should not sell inferior equipment as soon as you replace it. As mentioned above, the Bag never runs out of space, so there's no reason to sell off older equipment as soon as you get something better. In fact, older equipment is safer than coins, because items remain in your possession if you get a game over. Thus, you should hold onto older items until you are ready to actually buy something expensive.
You Can Save Anywhere and Review the Story
In Dragon Quest VII, you save normally via churches that also allow you to revive fallen party members and help out with other ailments. However, being a portable game, it's fair to expect that you might have to quit playing while far away from a town with a church.
When this happens, you can use the quick save option in the Misc. menu to make a temporary save point to pick up from later. This option won't work everywhere, so if you're trying to save in a boss room or something, try backing up a screen and attempt the save again.
Interestingly, quick saves are kept alongside your regular saved games (you can have three saved files, but only one quick save) and can be accessed even after you've returned to them and saved normally afterwards. Thus, quick saving occasionally might not be a bad idea so you can jump back a bit in time if you get into trouble.
Finally, since DQ VII is such a massive game, you might sometimes forget what's happening in the story or where you're supposed to go. When this happens, visit the Info section of the menu, where you can choose Recent Developments to view a brief synopsis of the last major action you've taken.
For more info, choose The Story So Far in the same menu to view a complete list of these recent development blurbs.
It can't be over-emphasized how massive of an adventure Dragon Quest VII is, and a complete guide would take up tens of thousands of words. However, these core tips should get you going well on your way into the adventure. Remember that if you feel that the opening is slow, you're not alone.
You'll slowly peel back new layers of the game and discover more to do, so get playing!